Dan passed away on Thursday, January 10th. He wound down his eighty-five years just as he wanted, resting in his Coconut Grove cottage surrounded by family, friends, and his beloved orchids.
Dan with his wife, Brigitte, their daughter, Clemence, and one of the orchid showers he was so proud of.
Dan loved to tell stories. They were like peering into a history book seldom seen. Forest Gump-like, they ranged from World War II to meeting presidents.
Here's one. Growing up in Allapattah, he and his mother would drive to Coconut Grove every year to buy their Thanksgiving turkey. In the forties they were sold at the corner of McDonald and Grand. You'd pick one of many gobbling in a pen and a worker would make it "oven ready".
Another story I loved had Dan and his Jackson High School buddies riding their bikes a few blocks south to swim in the then-pristine Miami River. The boys would beg tourists passing by in boats to throw coins so they could dive for them.
Afterwards they'd often visit the Miccosukees in the nearby Musa Isle Indian village.
For sixty years he had his own boats and use them to dive for fish, to sail, and explore the Florida Keys and Bahama Islands. Once he took Francesca and I out for picnic to what he called, "a remarkable island on the south end of Biscayne Bay". Once ashore the mosquitoes were so remarkably thick we had to high-tail it back to the Grove.
Dan was a Harvard grad who practiced law in Miami for years. During much of that time he remained a bachelor living in his small -but charming- cottage on Poinciana Avenue.
It was surrounded by orchids, ferns, and palm trees. "Why grow grass?", he'd say adding, "I never mow, I just pick up old palm fronds now and then". He had the "simple Grove life" down.
Just a week ago we were enjoying a bottle of wine and more endless stories in Dan's living room. We heard the ones lunching with Fidel, meeting President Kennedy, barnstorming through Europe with Barry Goldwater, and his life-long friendship with Janet Reno and her family, once more.
One of Dan's best stories -and biggest accomplishments- was finally settling down to start a family.
Dan married Brigitte, a lovely French woman, and they became the proud parents of a daughter,Clemence, thirty years ago. The three of them were together -as they had been for decades- when he passed away.
Dan Kavanaugh may have left us but his family and extraordinary stories will be with us for years to come.
Would you like to enjoy a few more of Dan's stories? A couple of years ago Isabel Shaw and
her film crew interviewed Dan on his back porch. Here are the links to the two-part series. Our thanks to the Shaws for sharing them.